Louis Xiv: The Glory Of The Sun King
Louis XIV was known as the Sun King who governed France from his magnificent palace at Versailles. He was one of the most powerful rulers in French history. However, he was only four years old when he succeeded his father to the French throne. Louis XIV made France powerful and expanded its borders. France became the political and cultural center of Europe. Meantime, Louis XIV and his wife Marie Theresa enjoyed lovely and luxurious lives. His daily life, palace, and garden reflect his wealth and power.
Louis XIV had strict and delicate lifestyles. He used his clothing to demonstrate his power and status. The gold flower on his robe was the symbol of French kings. His sword, scepter, and crown symbolized power. Louis XIV was also a pioneer of fashion, especially high heels. “He didn’t really need the heels for height, but he wore them because it was a sign of prestige and expense,” said by Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, an art historian who has studied The Sun King extensively. King also allowed certain members of his court to wear them. Chrisman-Campbell notes. “Red was a very prestigious color, and to have these red shoes was a big status symbol. Louis XIV used fashion as a form of social control, and the red heels were a form of fashion reward” (Rebekah Bell). In his daily life, he had a wake-up ceremony. The first Valet de Chambre awakened the king with 'Sire, it's time to get up.” After the king had visited the first doctor and the first surgeon, the wake-up ceremony began. When the king was washed, combed and shaved, some people entered the king's bedroom. And then the king wore and ate the soup for breakfast. All male spectators were around 100. In addition, the king held a solemn party. To celebrate his victory in Spain, he wanted to form a party and it spent a third of his budget for the Palace of Versailles in 1668. The party had no specific theme, but it was full of splendor and surprise. The king opened his party later in the afternoon and took his guests to walk around in the garden. Then he invited them to a luxurious afternoon tea that decorated with a dressing table and buffet, covered with many fruits, meat, and wine. The party ended with a fireworks show. The fairytale effect was perfect! As the Sun King, he must have a special way of traveling. His coaches were beautifully crafted. They were luxurious and decorated with gold and carvings which were the mix of all decorative arts made by the best artists and craftsmen at that time.
The wealth of Louis XIV was not only reflected in his daily life but also in his palace at Versailles. Louis XIV didn’t like Paris from an early age. That place was dirty and had narrow pathways. He only felt relaxed in Versailles. Louis XIV was very interested in architecture. The palace suited his ambitions perfectly. The palace was proof of his absolute power. Only a ruler with total control over his country’s economy could afford such a lavish palace. It cost about $2.5 billion in 2003 dollars. Louis XIV forced 36,000 laborers and 6,000 horses to work on the project. Around 1687, he began planning to move the government to the palace. Many people think that The Hall of Mirror is the most beautiful room in the palace. The entire length of the hall is 73 meters and pays tribute to the political, economic and artistic achievements of France.
Despite the palace itself, the park and garden were also impressive. In 1661, Louis XIV commissioned André LeNôtre to create and renovate the Versailles gardens, which he considered being as important as the palace. The work of the garden began at the same time as the work of the palace, which lasted for about 40 years. Last but not least, each project was reviewed by the King himself and he would like to see 'every detail.' Creating a garden is a daunting task. A massive amount of soil must be transferred to the ground to create a flowerbed, build an orangery, and dig out fountains and canals in areas previously occupied only by grasslands and swamps. Trees are brought from different parts of France. Thousands of people, sometimes even the entire group, have participated in this enormous project. Originally, Versailles was built with 5,000 acres of gardens, lawns, woods, and 1,400 fountains. Water features of all kinds are an essential part of French gardens, even more so than plant designs and groves. At Versailles, there is an unusual set of fountains called Fountains of the Fight of the Animals. “They are composed of fighting animals and demonstrate impressive realism. To the north, the Diana or Evening Fountain features a lion bringing down a wolf and a lion bringing down a wild boar; to the south, the Daybreak Fountain features a tiger bringing down a bear and a bloodhound bringing down a stag. In each piece, the water jet of the victorious animals falls into the upper basin, while the jet of the defeated animals falls into the lower basin”.
Louis XIV's reign had lasted 72 years, longer than any other known European king. He was the most powerful ruler in French history. Louis XIV affected the culture and history of France greatly and left a profound impression on the world. His daily life, palace, garden, and park clearly showed his wealth and power.
- “The Fountains.” Palace of Versailles, 31 Jan. 2019, en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/estate/gardens/fountains.
- “What He Wore.” Robb Report, Rebekah Bell, 7 Sept. 2017, robbreport.com/lifestyle/sports-leisure/slideshow/luxury-through-ages-exorbitant-lifestyle-louis-xiv-slideshow-0/what-he-wore/.
- “The Great Royal Entertainment.” Palace of Versailles, 23 Aug. 2018, en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/history/key-dates/great-royal-entertainment.
- “A Day in the Life of Louis XIV.” Palace of Versailles, 1 Feb. 2019, en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/history/key-dates/day-life-louis-xiv#mornings.
- “The Gallery of Coaches.” Palace of Versailles, 26 Dec. 2018, en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/estate/royal-stables/gallery-coaches.
- “The Hall of Mirrors.” Palace of Versailles, 6 Dec. 2018, en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/estate/palace/hall-mirrors#the-hall-of-mirrors.
- “The Gardens.” Palace of Versailles, 27 July 2018, en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/estate/gardens.